In-game discussion and justification of dungeons and "A wizard did it"

Benoist

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
27
Reaction score
41
"You will find of course all sorts of subterranean forms of habitat scattered throughout the depths of the Eurth. Tunnels and caverns, sinkholes and chasms are natural places for all sorts of predators to dwell, find sustenance or protection. Humans and Demi-humans will also shape living quarters, basements and other systems of tunnels during both peace and war time, using their own ingenuity and unique engineering abilities for similar if more enlightened reasons. Lairs after a fashion.

Extensions of these natural needs and inclinations would include tombs and burial grounds to keep the dead away, mines to recover ores necessary for a myriad of trades and crafts they all engage in. These are lair extensions that follow and are required for the sustenance of the group and society developing in their midst.

There is yet a very different kind of subterranean network, which is purposefully aimed at either becoming its own Underworld or connect to the broader metaphysical concept thereof. Their architects, as you know, are usually Priests and Magic Users versed into the subtleties of the Invisible Art, and how it can use the powers and flows of the Eurth for greater arcane purposes, hence the deliberate North-South, East-West orientation of 10 foot wide corridors following the cardinal directions flowing from the Axis Mundi, as well as variants following ley lines and loci of power.

These have come to be known as Dungeons, perhaps because they originally spread from the underground levels of the early city states of men, how they were used to seclude slaves and more terrifying, dark things away from the light of day.

Yet it might surprise you that not all Dungeons are built by sentient beings studying architectural patterns and the way they can perform as dweomers channeling the forces of the Eurth.

There is another kind of Dungeon which to my mind is much more mysterious and therefore, much more dangerous in nature, for it springs forth from the metaphysical Underworld itself and may spread under our feet undetected, like a tumour reaching from the ethereal and astral planes, from the unending labyrinth of the netherworld, with its adjunct rooms, corridors and entire levels tainting and melding with the material plane. These may be discovered and populated by creatures from this world, as well as all the shades of the Eurth, but they well and truly hail from Beyond. What intelligence if any devised them, what exact purpose their existence follows, and what rhyme or reason their seemingly random appearances in this world translate, I am not sure. That is the part that scares me."

Eriop of the Flame, to the Colorless Mage of Perrengaard.

Pictured: The Hearth of Chaos, level 3 of the Marmoreal Tomb.

Fhh8e2E.jpg
 

Kalex

Member
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
9
Reaction score
11
I love that there are at least 82 encounters just on that level! In 4e that is a career! :p
 

The Butcher

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2017
Messages
4,447
Reaction score
11,136
So here we have a taxonomy of dungeons.
  • Natural ("tunnels and caverns, sinkholes and chasms") — the product of ordinary geological processes.
  • Architectural ("living quarters, basements and other systems of tunnels (...) tombs and burial grounds (...) mines" etc.) — started its life as a mundane and utilitarian man- (or dwarf-, orc-, whatever) made structure below ground.
  • Geomantic ("aimed at either becoming its own Underworld or connecting to the broader metaphysical concept thereof") — a telluric "power grid" of sorts accumulating, harnessing or redirecting the flow of magical energy (possible effects on spellcasting?)
  • Chthonic ("springs forth from the metaphysical Underworld itself") — a point of otherworldly intrusion beneath the earth, where raw unadulterated planar energies dig blind cysts and darkened vaults that coalesce in strange, nonlinear labyrinths and fester with alien life.
I like it. Best thing is, you can have all of these in the same dungeon. ;)
 

Benoist

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
27
Reaction score
41
Yes and yes. The two first would be generally smaller and fit the term of "lair" as applied in 1e AD&D. "Dungeon" is more appropriate to the latter two, and implies a bigger underground network, but these aren't hard lines, the definitions are blurred.

What I really wanted to do was explain the logic and reasoning we had with Ernie in the background as to "why" you have dungeons, and "why" 'wizards do it', and why corridors on the graph paper are usually neatly oriented with the cardinal directions, that kind of thing, and bring it up explicitly as an in-world rumor or beginning of these things a DM can riff off in various ways with his/her own game.
 

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
6,845
Reaction score
13,600
Ben is back. :grin: I knew one day he'd step back from the Social Media Darkside and join a forum again. ;)

Once you get into the area of Geomancy and "Chthonic" dungeons, then you're intersecting directly with the cosmology of the setting. That's a pretty cool setting detail, but definitely not the baseline assumption of standard D&D Editions. Are you going to have some rules or suggestions on how to have PCs interact/understand/research/utilize these power structures?
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,397
Reaction score
78,550
I love the idea of self-creating Dungeons that erupt from a metaphysical state. It really reminds me of the Labyrinth from House of Leaves.
 

Benoist

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
27
Reaction score
41
Once you get into the area of Geomancy and "Chthonic" dungeons, then you're intersecting directly with the cosmology of the setting. That's a pretty cool setting detail, but definitely not the baseline assumption of standard D&D Editions. Are you going to have some rules or suggestions on how to have PCs interact/understand/research/utilize these power structures?
Not immediately, though that'd certainly be something I would love exploring in a manual for high level characters in a Duinnsmere campaign. At this stage, with the PCs discovering the world and starting to explore it, this is in the background and hints at the metaphysical forces at play behind the locations and places of power they might discover in the game.

As for the baseline assumption of standard D&D, depends what you define as "standard D&D" I suppose. These explanations are actually just rationalization of the separation between the concept of "lair" versus the concept of "dungeon" in Original Dungeons & Dragons and by extension 1st edition Advanced. Likewise, the concept of a dungeon having by its very nature a connection to metaphysical forces in the world is very much present as a background assumption in the original game. When you see that monsters move differently in the dungeon than the player characters do, that the rules of the reality of the dungeon seem to bend depending on who is doing what and how, this is something that can be extrapolated from the original booklets.

Philotomy Jurament had explored some possible ramifications of this extensively in a series of posts entitled "The Dungeon as a mythic Underworld". I think you can still find remnants of this online. I know the Grey Elf gathered some of Philotomy's musings together as a makeshift "supplement", for instance.
 

thedungeondelver

Legendary Member
Joined
May 2, 2017
Messages
376
Reaction score
543
the Dionaea dungeon: it is patiently waiting for you to come in and die so it can absorb you for nutrition.

The Dionaea House (warning: may cause lots and lots of lost sleep, also please read the various 'blogs that go with it)
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,397
Reaction score
78,550
the Dionaea dungeon: it is patiently waiting for you to come in and die so it can absorb you for nutrition.

The Dionaea House (warning: may cause lots and lots of lost sleep, also please read the various 'blogs that go with it)

Okay, holy fuck, I'm only like 6 or 7 emails in, but the "house" thats being referenced is "near Pecan Grove Plantation." (Wednesday, Sept 15th's email)

When I lived in Houston many years back, Pecan Grove is where our house was. Shit you not.
 

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
6,845
Reaction score
13,600
I didn't want to start posting with Ben again by starting off with a disagreement, but, here we go.

I'm well aware of Philotomy's Musings, and it's a fascinating way to interpret the dungeon, but...it's definitely an interpretation. By "standard D&D" I mean the actual text on the pages of the books in question. When examining any author's text, I generally look for the following:
1. Author's Intent (with textual or corollary evidence).
2. Ideas the author is implying, consciously or not, simply drawing from influences.
3. Ideas the reader is inferring, consciously or not, simply drawing from influences.
4. Interpretations sprung solely from the mind of the reader and not intended or implied by the author's text.
All of them can be completely valid in understanding the work of the author and discussing it, but one classification is not the same as another.

I could look at the combat charts in AD&D and because all monsters use a unified chart expressed in Hit Dice numbers which is different from the PCs, which are broken down by class on a level chart I could conclude that monsters are some unified form of being separate from the PCs and use that as evidence that PCs are real people in a Virtual Reality environment and all monsters are part of the AI. That might make for a great campaign, but it certainly isn't an extrapolation from those charts and that certainly wasn't in the mind of Gary Gygax when he wrote the rules. I really don't think the Mythic Underworld was either. There's not a single module that Gary wrote that supports the idea, and even his own Castle Greyhawk, from all reports I've ever seen, had a less Mythic and more direct creation via the interaction of the gods of his world.

It certainly was in the mind of Barker when he designed Tekumel's Jakalla Underworld.

Now I'll freely admit that hanging with the Gygax family may have given you evidence I don't possess, or maybe you can point more specifically to textual evidence if you feel like it.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea itself, I always have. I just think if you're looking at the idea as one of the four classifications I mention above, it's clearly not 1, at best 2 coming from a shared foundation of reading that was part of Gary's background, and more likely 3 and 4.

That's why I'm asking if you have any ideas about PCs somehow being aware of and interacting with this Mythic Underworld, because in 40+ years of D&D it's never really been mentioned at all, except for 4e with their Cthonic broken god who crawls through the Underdark, and they could have got the idea from Philotomy as his musings predate 4th.
 
Last edited:

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
6,845
Reaction score
13,600
GO INSIDE
THE DOOR IS OPEN.

Dionaea is definitely good, the fake Livejournals were creepy as hell, and the entity starting to learn how to bait people through the internet was a definite spine-chiller, but a few well-designed photos could have turned that into the worst SCP-Level nightmare fuel.
 

opaopajr

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,751
Reaction score
2,444
the Dionaea dungeon: it is patiently waiting for you to come in and die so it can absorb you for nutrition.

The Dionaea House (warning: may cause lots and lots of lost sleep, also please read the various 'blogs that go with it)

This would make a lovely Infernal Tether to Secrets, Gluttony, or Media... A mystery, consumption, bile, & yeasty smells, a cookie cutter house, and multimedia, perhaps a cluster of tethers that mimics in order to throw competing demons off track. I could make very good use of this.

The best part is in a human campaign there really is nothing to solve, and no real way of directly fighting back. A fun hook to draw new human blood into the celestial war while keeping it creepy.
 

Benoist

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
27
Reaction score
41
I'm well aware of Philotomy's Musings, and it's a fascinating way to interpret the dungeon, but...it's definitely an interpretation. By "standard D&D" I mean the actual text on the pages of the books in question.
No, not the *specific* Mythic Underworld interpretation of the baseline which is Philotomy's, but the baseline is there, the idea that the world of the dungeon was in fact beyond the mundane is hardcoded into the D&D rules since chainmail, by virtue of creatures having hit dice, characters having level progressions and so on. One thing that might not be readily obvious is that the whole world around the PCs is supposed to be at a mundane level 0/1. Anything beyond this is extraordinary (<-- as in the original meaning of the word, "out of the ordinary world", not extraordinary as in "super rare").

From there, the interpretation of this hardcoded, implicit, separation between mundane and extraordinary, leads to musings like Philotomy's. Gary Gygax didn't think of dungeons in the sense of "Mythic Underworlds", but he very much thought about them as sites of adventure and beyond the mundane every day world, "where the adventure happens", that is undeniable in my mind. One has only to look at the introduction of pretty much all his modules, giants, Barrier Peaks, Caves of Chaos, Elemental Evil, you name it, to see it declined in many, many ways. As for the metaphysical connection, one has to look at Castle Greyhawk, Zagig, and the emprisonment of Iuz for proof. Likewise with Elemental Evil, the nodes, and the later imprisonment of Zuggtmoy.
 

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
6,845
Reaction score
13,600
No, not the *specific* Mythic Underworld interpretation of the baseline which is Philotomy's, but the baseline is there, the idea that the world of the dungeon was in fact beyond the mundane is hardcoded into the D&D rules since chainmail, by virtue of creatures having hit dice, characters having level progressions and so on. One thing that might not be readily obvious is that the whole world around the PCs is supposed to be at a mundane level 0/1. Anything beyond this is extraordinary (<-- as in the original meaning of the word, "out of the ordinary world", not extraordinary as in "super rare").

From there, the interpretation of this hardcoded, implicit, separation between mundane and extraordinary, leads to musings like Philotomy's. Gary Gygax didn't think of dungeons in the sense of "Mythic Underworlds", but he very much thought about them as sites of adventure and beyond the mundane every day world, "where the adventure happens", that is undeniable in my mind. One has only to look at the introduction of pretty much all his modules, giants, Barrier Peaks, Caves of Chaos, Elemental Evil, you name it, to see it declined in many, many ways. As for the metaphysical connection, one has to look at Castle Greyhawk, Zagig, and the emprisonment of Iuz for proof. Likewise with Elemental Evil, the nodes, and the later imprisonment of Zuggtmoy.

Yeah, I get where you're going. Not "Mythic Underworld" as much as "Points of Intersection", where the World of the Mundane touches Other Worlds. Whether literally, like the nodes under the ToEE, or the Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye, where players might interact with an ancient god, or the Temple of Tharizdun, which may actually lead to the prison of Tharizdun himself, or the Isle of the Ape, or the weird yet deadly surrealism of the Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, or the Barrier Peaks where adventurers literally encounter things from Out of This World. Adventurers travel Into the Unknown, Where Gods Walk, where the maps say Here Be Monsters.

I also get now why you seem to find the power creep of later AD&D such anathema to the original premise. The more magical and powerful the mundane world becomes, intersecting with the Other becomes commonplace and everyday. It saps the mystery and wonder out of the Unknown, because everything is known, classified and tagged.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top